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Joseph, Whose Tears Captured Hearts of Thousands, dies at 15

Joseph, the Kenyan boy whose silent tears at the conclusion of Left Behind drove the AIDS tragedy home for tens of thousands of viewers, died January 28, 2004, at the Nyumbani orphanage where he had lived since childhood. He had suffered from full-blown AIDS and did not respond to treatment with antiretroviral drugs. Joseph had just turned 15.

In the summer of 2000, during the initial filming of scenes for Left Behind, Joseph said he believed he had contracted HIV from sniffing glue as a street boy in the slums of Nairobi. He almost certainly caught the virus from his mother, who died of the disease, but his quiet denial and his ignorance of the actual causes of AIDS showed audiences the enormity of the challenge in attacking the pandemic in Africa.

Left Behind Producer/Director Christof Putzel said Joseph's death starkly demonstrates the human tragedy that will strike down 70 million AIDS sufferers in the next two decades without dramatic new action to halt the spread of the disease. "Joseph's story is especially heartbreaking for those of us who knew and loved him," Putzel said. "We can only hope that telling his story will help others who come after him."

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Copyright 2002-2004 Christof Putzel